They are everywhere--those sunflowers with the coal heart center. They riot without speaking, huge, wet mouths caught at half-gasp, half-kiss. Flowers she promises I’ll grow into, sweet gardener, long luminous braids I’d climb like ladders, freckles scattered across our shoulders in a spell of pollen. She’s sleeping there--on that table with its veneer slick as a glass coffin. She’s fed us fiddleheads, the tine fists of Brussels sprouts, cupcakes, even the broken song of the deer’s neck. Singing. Flowers everywhere. In my bedroom chaste daisies and the vigilance of chrysanthemums. Dirt under my nails, pressing my cheek to the shag rug with its million fingers. You could lose anything: a tooth, Barbie’s shoe, this prayer. She loves me. She loves me not. I stare at my reflection, a posy of wishes. Morning glory, nightshade, tulip, rhododendron. In this poem I would be the Wicked Witch and she Snow White. Waiting. My father talks to me about their lovemaking. My mouth empty as a lily. I try to remember the diagram. Which is the pistil? Which is the stamen? Roads of desire circle our house: Lost Nation Severance, Poor Farm. Branches catch the wings of my nightgown. There is a crow and the smell of blackberries.
Poem from The Drowned Girl (2003), reprinted with permission of Kent State University Press.